I almost forgot when I planned this post (1st post of the month will be in the Central Five Series) that it goes out to many of you on the 4th. Independence Day in the US! And that's actually great because the book for this week is a western and that's about as American as it gets.
The Test of Devotion is a story about danger and deception. The setting of the American West during the 1850s was perfect for telling this story of tough people, but behind the general surface of action-adventure are some subtle layers. It’s a surprisingly nuanced book. The Test of Devotion wasn’t the story it seemed to be several years ago and a lot of that goes right back to the people it is about. Its characters rise to the surface in unexpected ways, because in this story about deception most of its protagonists aren’t what they seem to be when you first see them.
So, the Central Five Characters that bring focus to this book are:
Arabella plays a big role in generating the entire plot. A brave and independent girl, she isn’t afraid to head out into the unknown. Although she is pretty and charismatic enough for the job, she finds she’s not quite heroine material just yet. Marrying a man who doesn’t wish her well puts her in danger of betrayal. But she comes through it all and earns the right to be the book’s protagonist.
Benito is an orphan with a delightful bad attitude. All spunk and spines, he takes care of himself although he has no money and no family except one negligent, adopted older brother (Viajero.) Benito always, repeat always, stands up for himself, whether you were challenging him or not, and he can singlehandedly start a rescue.
Governor Wallace achieved much in his past life before coming out to Texas to become a successful rancher. A wise mentor and a good friend, he’s viewed as invulnerable and noble by the young people in the story. He contributes little to the action since the others do so much for themselves, but pitches in when his authority is needed.
Jenny is the daughter of a missionary who bought a hotel in southern Texas. She’s a practical person who is up to dealing with anyone—even criminals like the sinister Hawk who shadows Arabella. She’d probably describe herself as nothing much, just a girl working in a hot, dusty place. And she’d be right—until she got involved in an adventure.
Lanmont brings all the intrigue to the story. As a smart man he is a natural for working in government and he’s a fast learner and takes quick action in everything he does. But he gets a little arrogant, a little full of himself, and starts a situation he can’t handle. Looking for an easy way out is rarely a good strategy—but it makes for a lot of twists and turns.
And there will be more updates.
I haven't posted on A Year with the Harrisons in a while so I'll do so while it's being promoted this month. PLUS, it is currently part of the Spectacular Summer Giveaway. If you missed getting a copy of Harrisons in the Children’s Book Giveaway a couple of weeks ago, you can snag it today. But you should check out this giveaway in any case. It's an all-genre event with romance, fantasy, some short stories, books about cooking, contemporary novels, and adventure. Harrisons is a YA comedy that really brings grownup and younger readers together, so it has been in two pretty different collections this month. This giveaway is more for adult readers than the last one and has a great set of books.
Check it out here. And if you try to download A Year with the Harrisons and it doesn’t work because you're already subscribed, use this link for a direct download. But only for my book. Be sure to check out all the others at the link above.
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A Year with the Harrisons is a story about people who are hiding from their past. A lot of the situations in the book are funny, as the characters' bumbling through relationships is often amusing. But like many dramas, coming of age stories, and women’s fiction, complicated family ties that lead to many plot twists are essential to its structure. The two central plots involve two branches of a Texas family, the Harrisons, who haven’t dealt with things about their past relationships to other family members. The plots parallel through the characters of Joe Harrison, a homeschooling father of three teenage girls, and his first cousin once removed, Betty Harrison, a former celebrity who now works at a local diner. While both of these people quietly move in very different spheres, blending in with their chosen social circles, they really have a lot of connection to each other. A connection that can’t be denied and that never goes away.
They are both tied to Betty’s mother, a famous pop singer. But Betty has left her mother to pursue a separate life and has never dealt with any of the emotions about that painful split. She’s a single mother whose young daughter attends an ordinary small-town school. Joe moved into an unusual lifestyle of home-education for his children and has almost cut himself off from the outside world. The girls are isolated and have few friends except at church, since Joe, unlike Betty, has become very religious. You’d never think to see either Joe or Betty that they even knew each other. But of course that's how the story begins, not how it ends.
This is mostly a very cheerful book, because Betty and Joe do end up making good decisions. There are a lot of young people in the book, with prominent plots focused on teenage girls as well as a bit of mild romance between Joe’s daughter Letty and a football player. But these core relationships among the older people build a foundation for the story. Except for the pastor Dr. Bunsen, a minor character whose effort to change the ministries at his church fails, everyone in the circle of the Harrison family and the Shotgun family (who shadow them throughout the book) end up finding there’s always a solution to things if you just deal with them. Betty becomes close to her mother again, all the young people grow into their budding new lives, Joe proves more knowledgeable than anyone anticipated, and the villain, Mr. Shotgun, conveniently pops off.
Perhaps a bit of a contrivance on that last one, but I’d certainly like to think it was at least a little bit real. Facing things is always the best way because when confronted with a direct accusation of identity almost everything bad will immediately disappear. There’s a reason why light always turns trolls to stone.
And there will be more updates.
This week I'm examining The Birthday Present in more detail and The Birthday Present and Ryan and Essie are both on sale. They are priced at $0.99 each, which is the lowest price they've had in about a year. Both are in group sale events and not only can you find some new authors (or maybe authors you’ve noticed for a while and this time their book is on sale!), you can see what types of books are similar to mine. Market context has historically been a little hard to get on these two books, specifically, so I encourage you to check out these sales.
The Summer SFF Bargain Books promo has The Birthday Present and emphasizes fairy tales, academy stories, military sci-fi, and attractive protagonists on the covers. It has mostly adult books, but with a few YA sprinkled in. Click here to visit it.
The Marvelous and Magical Fantasy promo has Ryan and Essie and a good list of intelligent, thought-provoking fantasy (think A Wrinkle in Time) that doesn’t sacrifice adventure while exploring ideas. It has books for all ages from children's to adult. Click here to visit it.
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I am starting a little series, In a Nutshell, based off of the Five Central Characters series that has been going on monthly. It explores some of the central five characters for each book in a more detailed way. And for The Birthday Present the ones to look at are Lucy from “The Birthday Present” and Lord Harry from “Millhaven Castle.”
In “Birthday Present,” it isn’t told from Lucy’s POV as much as from that of one of the boys at the military school she visits. Her important relationships are with the human beings in the colony she comes from. Aure, the other focus of the story, relates mostly to the culture he oversees, including the boys Lucy befriends. But Lucy has a job to do towards changing the society Aure has created. She is a very attractive and brave person in spite of her faults. She can be a bit stubborn, she is around very dangerous things without seeming to realize it, and she argues a lot. But that doesn’t negate her courage and her dedication to doing the best she can. She’s a well-intentioned girl even if she’s a bit overwhelmed by the things around her, and you don’t have to be perfect to do a good job or to stand up for what’s right.
In "Millhaven Castle," it’s similar in that the POV character, Alyce, isn’t quite what motivates the story. She is grabbed by the protagonists, Lord Harry and those around him like his brother. Lord Harry drives the story and his relationships with other Capsells determine a lot of what he does. Alyce sort of walks right into a situation that has a lot of anger bubbling up within it and she doesn’t quite understand because Harry is a very angry and moody person, but he tries to restrain it by acting in a jerky manner, all fits and starts. He is quick-tempered, often interrupts, and behaves oddly because he’s upset about things around him. He helps Alyce to show his disapproval of his brother, does not really explain why he’s helping, and does not let her see what a caring person he can really be. His inability to explain his motives is a hint they might not be 100% good, but he is viewed as a sympathetic character anyway.
So, both characters show there is a lot of subtext within The Birthday Present book. Both the stories have many relationships that are only hinted at. But sometimes it’s best to write that way because readers will be smart enough to figure out what’s going on.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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When I set about defining my books, I wanted them to be positive places where a gentleness emanated from the pages. A hopeful safety lies in gentleness and there's also an honesty to it. A whirlwind of pushy book blurbs and hot characters (or whatever type character the author wants you to admire) can conceal a reality underneath. A quiet--possibly even lurking--reality that's more visible if you dial down the volume. That lurking reality isn't necessarily bad, but like anything quiet, it gets drowned out by conflict and angst. Peaceful fiction can help explore the truth that noisy books ignore.
Bellevere House has been featured on Ezvid Wiki video "10 Wonderfully Inventive Retellings That Interpret Classic Stories in a New Way." Click to see the video.